Nikki will be writing a recurring piece for ACLU-WV called Incarcerated with COVID-19.
Get to Know Nikki Zinzuwadia
Tell us a little bit about your background.
I was born and raised in Beckley, West Virginia before moving to Philadelphia for college. Currently, I am a rising junior at the University of Pennsylvania studying how health and policy impact our various communities. With interests in the legal and medical fields, I want to pursue a law career with a focus on healthcare reform, advocacy, and policymaking.
During high school, I developed a strong interest in helping individuals with special needs. I spearheaded a project to provide piano and music education to a child with autism and furthered my interest in ASD through an internship at a local health services center. While in college, I have been involved in autism research at the Perelman School of Medicine and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and contributed to work advancing ASD individuals’ abilities to drive. Through these experiences, I have become particularly passionate about disability rights and reform.
At Penn, I help Philadelphia residents who need assistance with housing, insurance enrollment, food security, and employment by engaging with local care providers and maintaining an on-site resource database with other students. I have also conducted nonpartisan research and collaborated on policy briefs about consumer issues. I am excited to further my interests and experiences with the ACLU of WV!
What about the ACLU of WV’s mission most resonates with you?
Growing up in southern West Virginia as an ethnic and religious minority, I have always been inspired by diverse backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives. I went to a small Catholic school for about ten years of my life before attending a much larger public high school as one of the few South Asian Americans. I have been privileged to gather experiences in several different communities, and I realize the importance of being both tolerant and open-minded in various cultural and political environments.
I value the ACLU of WV’s willingness to be a nonpartisan outlet for advocacy and discourse. Its focus to confront threats to civil rights and liberties within different ideological frameworks and institutions is incredibly important.
What are you most looking forward to about this internship?
While back home due to the COVID-19 pandemic, I want to use this opportunity to give back to those affected in my local community. As I am interested in learning about different areas of legal practice and policy, this is an important and unique time to engage in advocacy efforts and civil rights work. Through research, writing, and policy development, working with the ACLU of West Virginia will be a meaningful experience to address current challenges impacting the state. Additionally, I look forward to meeting other ACLU-WV members and targeting issues facing minority populations.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I am an avid music lover, whether that is playing the piano or discovering new songs to listen to. I enjoy traveling and spending time with family and friends. I love to cook, watch and play tennis, and explore Philly’s food scene!